“The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman
4 out of 5 stars.
“After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
“Elegantly rendered…heart-wrenching…beautifully drawn” (USA TODAY), The Light Between Oceans is a gorgeous debut novel, not soon to be forgotten.'”
So, I know it’s the cardinal sin of an avid reading to decide to read a book because its movie trailer looks really good, but that is what happened in my case. I had seen a commercial for the film adaption of this novel, and when I saw that Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender were going to play the main characters, I was very curious to pick up M.L. Stedman’s novel. Normally adult novels are not on my radar, especially since I dwell in the YA community, but now and then a unique and quality book will pop up within the adult genre for me to read, and “The Light Between Oceans” was one of those exceptions to the generally formulaic genre.
“The Light Between Oceans” was a wonderful book. It took me a very short amount of time to become invested in the story and its characters despite the slightly choppy narration by M.L. Stedman. Normally I would not enjoy her particular type of writing style, but for this novel it completely worked. Besides being extremely invested in the characters, especially Tom, I really appreciated M.L. Stedman’s boldness in which she portrayed the consequences of peoples’ actions, even when they are done with good intentions. Stedman did not shy away from displaying how one action made by an individual in their in sorrow and desperation could destroy the lives of people that they had never even met, and in consequence, they could also destroy their own family. The decision in this book was not made in malice nor had anyone intended to ruin the life of someone else, but it was a choice that had massive consequences, which began to wreak havoc on everyone.
The proof of how influential one choice can be in a person’s life was displayed in full effect in “The Light Between Oceans,” and even though I instinctively knew what was going to happen to Tom and Isabel and little Lucy, I was still anxiously reading this novel. M.L. Stedman did a wonderful job of making a historical romance novel feel more like a suspense novel at times. Not only was a crying towards the end, but my heart was also racing in dread at what I knew would come next. Maybe that only happened for me, but I was kind of a wreck once I got to the halfway point in “The Light Between Oceans.”
The situation that was the driving force of this book’s plot was intensely emotional; the concept of love, family, and the choices we make influencing both of those things made for an emotional reading experience, especially with the kinds of characters that M.L. Stedman wrote.
Tom Sherbourne was a seriously compelling character, his past with his family and his experiences in WWI making him an extremely dynamic character to read about. He was a strong, quiet, and thoughtful individual, and he was completely dedicated to his job as the light keeper, as well as being a husband. “The Light between Oceans” was a small book, but I felt that M.L. Stedman made every scene and word count concerning this character, and everything that happened to Tom in this book struck my heart. The choices that he willingly and unwillingly made during this novel were decisions that I think anyone can understand the reasoning behind, and his strong moral compass made him stand out as a character, not only in this book, but it also set him apart from other male characters in the literary world. I can’t say much else about Tom other than that without spoiling this story, but he was a truly amazing and moving character, and I completely understood the convictions and fears that drove him to make certain choices, especially the ones concerning his wife.
Isabel started out as being a feisty, vivacious young woman in the first third of this novel, and then her personality changed quite a bit. Her and Tom’s relationship was really sweet and charming to see develop, and I was happy to get a little bit of happiness and joy from their relationship before the young couple was thrown into the heart of this heavier story. The young, happy Isabel slipped away quickly after she lost two of her children, and some of the choices that she made, though I strongly disagree with them, were understandable considering everything that she and Tom had been through. What I didn’t like, though, was how she treated Tom; no matter how broken you feel or are from your experiences, you should never treat someone you love that way. (I know we all do it at times to our lovedones, but I still did not like it!) I understood the choices that Isabel made, I understand her motivation, but I think that she made some very selfish choices from the beginning of this book, and then kept making the wrong choices afterward. She mentally justified what she had done, but there was a right way to go about things, whether she wanted to see it or not. Because of the decisions that she made and how she treated Tom, I pittied her and her circumstances, but I was not a fan of her as a character.
“The Light Between Oceans” was full of many characters who all made choices that affected others, as well as themselves, but I don’t really want to talk about them because this novel was really about Tom. The heart of this story was about Tom Sherbourne and the sacrifices he made, the love he had for his family, and his view of right and wrong. “The Light Between Oceans” was an extremely moving story, and I definitely found myself struggling to read through my tears a few times, especially toward the end.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading “The Light Between Oceans.” It was a surprisingly emotional story for me, and I loved all of the historical and geographically touches that M.L. Stedman used to make her book come to life. I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good historical fiction novel or an emotionally gripping read, and I think that fans of “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers would really enjoy “The Light Between Oceans.” Now I just have to wait until the film adaption comes out so that I can watch it…
P.S. If my review did not convince you to give this book a try, here are all of the reasons why you should read “The Light Between Oceans” in bullit points:
- Amazing historical setting,
- Vivid detailing of Australia,
- Gripping plot,
- It’s a wonderfully introspective novel,
- Makes you think about your own views of personal and societal morality.
And the most important reason of all: Tom Sherbourne who was:
- Had an intensely strong conscience,
- Made me cry multiple time,
- Il était magnifique dans ce livre!
- Part of the rare species of male characters with a strong moral compass and undying love for his wife and daughter,
- All of the above equaled a super hot male character with an insanely moving story.
Do yourself a favor, and give this book a try.